Dealing with financial stress

 Financial stress has a tendency of creeping into a number of the affected person’s facets of life.

FINANCIAL stress is one of the most common types of stress that people around the globe are struggling with.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 72% of adults report feeling stressed about money, whether it is worrying about paying rent or feeling bogged down by debt or struggling to cope with the increasing rates of inflation.

However, not many people are aware that what they are dealing with is financial stress and so it is very important to learn more about financial stress, its consequences and more importantly, how to manage this specific type of stress.

What is financial stress?

Financial stress can be defined as emotional tension and in some cases, physical discomfort that is caused by money problems.

Financial stress can be experienced by anyone whether because there is not enough money to meet the daily demands such as paying rent and other bills, paying school fees, buying groceries, meeting medical expenses, or because there is too much of it that is beginning to cause relational or character problems.

People in the low income brackets, however, are the ones mostly affected by financial stress. Furthermore, their jobs might lack flexibility required to take some time off to create other streams of income.

They may also be working in unsafe environments, but will be afraid to quit their jobs because they will not be able to take care of themselves and their families while they look for another job.

What causes financial stress?

Financial stress is a result of failure to cope with the pressures that come with not having enough monetary resources to meet the daily demands of life.

It can be triggered by one or a combination of factors that an individual may be faced with and these factors are situations and circumstances that an individual has no control over.

The global economy is currently facing serious challenges and so many people are bound to be affected by financial stress in one way or the other.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global economic activity has experienced a broad-based and sharper-than-expected slowdown, with inflation higher than seen in several decades.

The cost-of-living crisis, tightening financial conditions in most regions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has all contributed to the gloomy outlook. The Word Bank also reported that in Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for about 60% of the world’s extreme poor, growth in per capita income over 2023-24 is expected to average just 1,2%, a rate that could cause poverty rates to rise, not fall.

Even in advanced economies, growth is projected to slow from 2,5% in 2022 to 0,5% in 2023 and slowdowns of this scale over the past two decades have foreshadowed a global recession.

And on individual basis, people may succumb to such financial crises as falling prey to bogus financial deals, genuine investments that go wrong, living above one’s means, losing a job, being unemployed and failing to find a job, having debt that one cannot settle, worrying about expected financial pressures and generally having a poverty mindset.

 How financial stress affects you

 Financial stress has a tendency of creeping into a number of the affected person’s facets of life. Firstly, when an individual is stressed out, their mental health is affected and some may actually slide into a depression or develop an anxiety disorder.

Without proper mental healthcare, a person’s life may be impaired.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression and anxiety are the top mental health conditions affecting an approximately 280 million people and 301 people in the world respectively.

Ongoing stress about money can give rise to physical health problems such as headaches, stomach aches, migraines, heart diseases, diabetes, sleep problems, as discussed in previous articles. 

When we are constantly stressed, our immunity is compromised hence making us vulnerable infections and illnesses. Furthermore stress does not allow our bodies to recover fast or fully hence resulting in more stress as one may not have enough financial resources to seek medical help. One of the most common reasons why couples fight and break up is financial constraints.

Our social lives are indeed very much affected by financial stress.

The underprivileged are often disregarded, disrespected and shunned by their communities.

There is a common English adage which says, “when troubles are many, friends are few”.

So financial stress may also cost us our loved ones and friends.

In some cases, people affected by financial stress resort to unhealthy and toxic coping mechanisms such as drug and substance abuse, unbecoming and risky behaviours, which may make their situation worse.

How to manage financial stress?

There are a number of ways in which a person can manage financial stress. Please note that it is of vital importance to get the stress out of the way or at least, to safe levels in order for your mind to be able to fully comprehend, implement and follow through to the end, any advice or tips on managing the actual financial crisis.

When the brain is clouded with a surge of cortisol, the stress hormone, you may find it very difficult to focus, to concentrate, to act on ideas and get results. So here are a few of the many ways in which you can manage financial stress:

Be aware of your emotions

Your emotions are often an indication of the thoughts that are pre-occupying your mind. It is not your situation that triggers the stress response, but it is your interpretation of the situation that takes you down.

Becoming aware that something is bothering you, therefore, is the first step towards winning the war against financial stress. Write down what you are feeling as it will give you an indication of the thoughts you need to pay attention to and probably change so that you reduce the levels of stress in your body.

Reframe your thoughts

Thoughts such as “I am in deep trouble”, “this situation is now beyond control” or “I am never going to get out of this mess” will cause your brain to trigger the fight or flight mode which results in the production of excess cortisol, which is responsible for the mental and physical problems discussed above.

To reduce your stress levels, you may need to consider changing how you interpret or react to your situation. The above thoughts could be reframed as follows: “I am in deep trouble” could change to “things do not look good but I believe I will somehow survive”.

Then “this situation is now beyond control” to “this situation can be resolved, there has to be another way”. You can also change “I am never going to get out of this mess” to “I will escape, I will figure things out”.

To be honest, changing the statements will not take the challenges away, but it will definitely reduce the amount of cortisol released into your system. In that case, you are able to think clearly and make rational and better decisions about your situation.

 Engage in self-care activities

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is critical to helping you manage stress. Get adequate sleep every night, adults require an average of seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Sleep helps your system to recover from the damaging effects of stress both in your brain and body.

Exercise is another recommended stress relief remedy, which actually works well for most people.

Try to walk, run or go to the gym for 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week to improve your mental and physical health.

A good diet is also critical for your mental and physical wellbeing so make sure you select food that builds you and helps you overcome stress.

  • Mhaka is a self-development coach and wellness consultant, who focuses on mental health awareness and mind fitness training. She is the executive director of BeMindFit, an author and a speaker. These weekly New Horizon articles, published in the Zimbabwe Independent, are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — [email protected] or mobile: +263 772 382 852.


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